Bill Felix long has been a familiar name and face in downtown Johnstown.
In the 1970s, the retired bank executive moved from volunteer, to assistant curator, administrator and executive director at the Johnstown Flood Museum.
That was before he became the “candy man,” at one time operating several shops in the area known especially for their penny candy, ice cream and trinkets.
Today, unfortunately, he’s a man whose health and finances are failing him. So, too, is the economy of the downtown he has unconditionally loved for decades.
Our David Hurst last week talked to Bill and some folks who care deeply about Bill. It resulted in a holiday story fit for the Hallmark Channel.
You can still read Hurst’s piece on our website, www.tribdem.com, along with responses to the story by online readers who, like us, were touched by the outpouring of love for Bill.
“He cares so much about the city, its people and its sports,” commented Tom Strauss of Neptune City, N.J. “He’s even been made an honorary citizen of New Orleans.
“If Morley’s Dog, the Point, the Inclined Plane and War Memorial are icons of the city, so, too, is Bill Felix!”
Added Dottie Bailey of Las Vegas: “People like Mr. Felix are what make Johnstown a great and welcoming city. Folks of Johnstown, please contribute to the economy by supporting his business. You’ll miss it if it’s gone.”
And from Jennifer Killinger-Oldham of Forest Hills High School: “I can’t say that I have ever been to this store ... but the thought that ‘penny candy’ still exists somewhere, makes me super happy. I will be one of those people that will be making an appearance. I can’t wait to check it out.”
What Ms. Killinger-Oldham was referring to was efforts being mounted to help Bill and his lone remaining store, on Market Street.
As Hurst reported, the Mommy’s Club Garage Sale group, a network of hundreds of local moms, and other volunteers are cleaning and repainting the store, restocking shelves and filling up the glass candy jars that have greeted children for a generation.
“We just want to help,” Lisa Fetzko-Kozich, a Mommy’s Club founder, told Hurst. “We want to shed light on the fact that he’s still down there and he’s still open for business.”
Fetzko-Kozich said her group also was helping with efforts to provide eye surgery for Bill, whose vision has been blurred by a cataract.
Others are helping, too, like Shorty’s Italian Smokehouse, which is ordering bags of candy for the store and donating a minifridge.
We’re awed and touched – but not surprised – by the generosity of area people and groups. This is so typical of our caring community, and not just at holiday time.
A finishing touch for Bill’s store will be a donated Christmas tree to light up the storefront.
“It is Christmas, after all,” said volunteer Tom Rohde.
Indeed it is in downtown Johnstown.
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